Recently I realized, we’re doing this wrong in America. It isn’t that we aren’t trying, and not that we’re building too much auto roadway, nor that we’re building bikes lanes or that we can’t get dedicated right of way for bicycles, nor that we’re building the wrong types of transit routes or using the wrong types of buses or too much light rail. We’re building, using, and expanding transportation in a horrible and haphazard way, this is clear, and this is the root of the problem.
Why The Dutch Have Superior Infrastructure
Spend a measly 6+ minutes to watch this video on how the Dutch got their cycling infrastructure. You’ll see many things we’re doing wrong, but…
You’ll notice the Dutch made the same horrifying mistake that we have in the United States in our cities. Starting at minute 1 in the video, they built solely for cars! Cars everywhere, they were rich, it would fix everything it seemed. Just tear down some old buildings and history and the life of the city, that’s all you need to do, is destroy a bunch of things for the cars to fit! (minute 1:20 in the video).
But then, the Dutch, unlike so many other supposedly civilized countries, called the slaughter of innocents what it was.
The Dutch realized it for the endless murder and violence that it brings. The pollutions, sickness, and economic and environmental pain. The delays and excessive trips that one must take from sprawling out to build around the automobile and creating an auto-dependent culture.
But we’re still missing what actually gives them better infrastructure. Because it isn’t just that their bicycling infrastructure is great. They also have exceptional transit options and, it might be shocking, but many Dutch still drive. But they all have one thing in common that many Americans can’t understand – barely any of them sit in auto-traffic congestion everyday and barely any of them have a commute more than 24-26 minutes each way to work.
How many Americans spend about 20 minutes just sitting in stop and go traffic? I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but suffice it to say there are a lot.
The Dutch spend their commutes on trains, trams, and bicycles for the most part. A few Dutch actually drive a little ways to their work, rarely needing to stop at stop signs or four way stops. Largely because the Dutch don’t have many of these things and instead have fully operational and functional roundabouts.
But go beyond the Dutch. Most of Europe, at least Western Europe, understands and is working toward these types of options. They’re ridding themselves of auto-congestion and just removing the automobile from their inner cities.
But how are they doing that? Did they just realize that cars cause an unnecessary and uncomfortable strain on society as a whole? Well, some realization of that has helped. But that isn’t it. Is it that they are somehow magically superior in transportation intellect than Americans? Jokingly one might say yes. But that isn’t particularly it either.
The Axiom of a Solution
The solution is hiding in how these European countries (and even some places in the United States) organize their transportation. They build it in a systemic and complete way, not for one single mode. Starting from this vantage point, and realizing that roads are public spaces that all people can, should, and will use is key. Transportation organization, planning, operation, and the future of it must be centered around building a complete system around a full systemic thinking mindset.
We must build for all modes and prioritize accordingly. It really is the only way we’ll fix the eternal congestion people face, get people into and out of the places they need to be in a reasonable way, and above all it is the only way to really gain an increasing livability and standard of life in this country.
Solution: Systemic, All Inclusive, Structured Transportation Planning
Whatever fancy pants word someone wants to come up with for that, it doesn’t matter, it just needs implemented across the board and this haphazard – “build a thing for cars only” then “build a sidewalk here” and then “build a bikeway over here” and who knows where the hell it is all connected – nonsense must end if we’re to move forward!
I’ve got a lot more coming on this topic, including how to increase the throughput of automobiles – somewhat ironically – to how to make the transit system work better with minor funding changes or increases. Cheers to 2016 Portland, let’s start kicking some ass and really make this city work!